Saturday, January 18, 2014


Dr. Margaret Montoya is a fountain of self loathing. After saving the world three years ago from alien beings bent on destroying the human race, the general public sees her as responsible for killing millions and her name is dragged through the mud as the person responsible for the worst atrocity in the US. She has retreated from the world, internalized all that negativity, and destroyed her marriage by wallowing in selfpity and spending hours reading horrible things about her every day. The president calls her into action once again because she's the only person who can combat the new methods these aliens employ to turn humans against each other. It all originated for an unassuming metal cylinder found at the bottom of Lake Michigan that turned a Navy submarine into an enemy vessel. That cylinder is in the ruins of the submarine and it must be found and contained before it has the opportunity to spread.

I've been eagerly waiting for this book for 5 years and Pandemic was definitely worth the wait. This alien invasion shares characteristics with a zombie apocalypse coupled with religious zealotry, which makes it much more chilling. The aliens first invade human bodies and change into a few different types of Converted to serve the aliens. The new types not seen previous books are the most interesting and frightening. The behemoth type needs another person to form. The change elongates the persons limbs and makes bone shards protrude from their skin along with enhanced strength and speed. The other type is a leader. The infection is undetectable and allows all the groups of Converted to organize and work towards a single goal instead of simply causing random mayhem and violence as before. These creatures not only wear human faces, but unite to take over and express a type of religious zealotry I personally find frightening. The Converted are way more scary than zombies ever dream to be.

Each chapter is in the third person and through the perspective of a character in the story. The order is chaotic and features some characters more than others. Scott Sigler has a skilled way of getting into the minds of each character, even if they are only seen in their one chapter. I found the transition from normal person to Converted to be particularly interesting. One of the Converted describes in detail how his dad taught him to properly swing a baseball bat and then kills someone with one. The juxtaposition of a fond childhood memory and the sudden, jarring violence surprised me and really set the tone for the depravity of the Converted. Another character went through this and went from working hard towards beating the aliens to seeing horrifying changes in herself she knows are symptoms of the Converted to completely succumbing and viewing humans as vermin to be exterminated.

Honestly, I'm sad the series is over. Everything from Scary Perry to the thrilling conclusion is a wild ride to read. This tome of 500+ pages only took me 2 days to read and that was only because I had to stop for pesky things like eating and sleeping. I highly recommend the entire Infected series and I urge you to start the first book Infected soon.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Purge

In 2022, the government reserves one night a year where almost all crime is completely legal. That's 12 hours of complete freedom to rape, murder, steal, etc. The rest of the days of the year, the society is damn near utopic with extremely low crime and unemployment rates. James Sandin devoted to his family and has made a sizable fortune selling security systems specifically to keep families safe from the Purge. He and his family always hole up for the night and wait for it to be over, but this year is different. His son takes pity on a homeless man and allows him into their house. Some random hooligans were hunting him and now demand him back or they will kill the family instead. James has to decide which is more important, the life of a stranger or the lives of his family.

I love the concept for The Purge. There are New Founding Fathers who have enacted this policy in order to allow for a practically crime and unemployment free America. I really wanted to know more about these powerful men, how they came to me known as such, and what state of events led to the legalizing of one night of legalized crime. The aim of it seems to be to let people let off steam and to rid the streets of undesirables (the poor, homeless, and nonwhite) at the same time. The quality of life of the people improves without the government having to actually do anything productive like providing more jobs or funding public programs to help the needy. They just get rid of the class of people that actually needs help. Unfortunately, none of these concepts are really explored in depth and, beyond a few small things, the film is largely a typical home invasion film that offers nothing new to the genre.

There are a couple things in the film that comment on society and brought some intrigue to the film. James Sandin is a capitalist through and through, the top seller of security at his work  Unfortunately, the security quality is quite low and doesn't actually withstand a lot of abuse despite its high price tag. The libertarian policies of his company bite him in the ass and leads to his own home being vulnerable to attack. He knew the security was crap and that didn't stop him from selling to hundreds of people and installing it in his own home. Who knows how many other people died as a result of the shoddy workmanship and corporate greed. The homeless man is the only person who is poor and not privileged in the film. He is treated as an animal and a possession by those more affluent. It might have been more interesting to have the story center around more than one person who would actually be affected by the Purge rather than a rich white family that acts supremely stupid at every turn.

The rest of the the film is your standard home invasion film. The attackers have creepy masks (a la The Strangers) and terrorize the family. They were actually pretty decent at being deranged. The family run around like chickens with their heads cut off and make the dumbest decisions on the face of the planet throughout the film. It would have been nice for them to make a decision about the homeless guy and stick with it instead of flip flopping every two seconds. I didn't really feel any sympathy for the family because they directly benefited from scamming people and the Purge plus they were boring. They were frankly getting what was coming to them.

The ending had some humor to it, but the film was overall a disappointment. The backstory was so interesting yet completely ignored after it generally set up the rules of the world. I would like to see a sequel or prequel that delves into the history behind it and focuses on the people who are actually victimized during the Purge.

My rating: 6/10 fishmuffins

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Princesses Elsa and Anna are sisters and best friends until Elsa's power over ice and snow gets away from her and she hurts Anna. Elsa completely pulls away, locking herself away from the world and working to control her powers by suppressing her emotions. Their parents downsize the staff and close the gates to Arendelle to reduce the danger Elsa poses to others. Anna feels abandoned and both girls feel utterly alone. Years later, their parents die in a boating accident, making Elsa the queen of Arendelle. She is forced to open the gates and hold a coronation celebration. The coronation goes well, but her powers are revealed after a heated argument with Anna. She runs away, leaving a wake of ice and snow, making the much needed summer into winter in Arendelle. Anna feels it's her responsibility to make amends with Elsa and convince her to life the supernatural winter.

Frozen is a fun film with charming characters and an unexpected ending. Anna and Elsa are both sympathetic characters who feel alienated and alone. I just want to give Elsa a great big hug. She tries her best to contain her powers and her feelings, sacrificing her close relationship with her sister in order to shield her from harm. She is forced to hide a fundamental part of herself in order to appear normal and utterly fails, causing harm to her entire community. I"m glad she wasn't a real villain as in the original story (which is very weird and religious), but a person trying her best and making mistakes. Anna is funny, quirky, and definitely not the poised and graceful Disney princess one might expect. She's very clumsy and embarrassingly blurts out her feelings to random people. She just wants a real relationship with her sister, to be able to make friends, and to have people around instead of cutting themselves off. My favorite character is Olaf, the living snowman who loves warm hugs. He provides perfect comic relief and he's just adorable.

Disney films are rather guilty of having two people fall in love rather quickly based on next to nothing and then living happily ever after. It seems as if this film goes in that direction when Anna falls for Prince Hans of the Southern Isles and accepts a proposal within an evening of meeting. When Anna is once again injured by Elsa's magic, her condition is said to be cured by an act of true love, suggesting Hans should save the day. The ending switches things around and Anna is cured because she threw herself in front of Elsa as Hans tried to kill her. The true love in this instance wasn't romantic love, but sisterly love. I really enjoyed this subverting of typical Disney tropes and the story is the best Disney has produced in a while.

The music of the film is delightful and another reason for the film's success. The filmmakers opted to hire Broadway composers to create these fun songs of varied styles. Do You Want to Build a Snowman is a cute, but sad song that encompasses Anna and Elsa's relationship after the accident and each of their loneliness and frustration. For the First Time in Forever is a cute song that shows Anna silly and quirky nature and her excitement for human contact and a dash of Elsa's mantra to control her powers. Love is an Open Door is an adorable instalove song between Anna and Hans with more of a rock feel and fun harmonies. In Summer is Olaf's hilarious song about his obsession with summer, but he has no idea what snow does in heat. The song has a nice old Hollywood musical flair and some unexpected lyrics. The best song of the film is Let It Go, Elsa's song of empowerment where she accepts herself despite what others think of her. Idina Menzel belts out the song and gives it the power it needs. The visuals are also amazing as Elsa effortlessly builds an ice castle around herself.

The only part of the film I didn't really like was the trolls. They were cute and provided some comedy, but didn't really add much to the story. They could have easily been cut out without anything essential being removed. Other than that, Frozen has my vote for best animated film of 2013.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins